Louis XIV’s Mission to Siam

During the second half of the seventeenth century, writes Robert Bruce, France hoped to dominate Siam and convert its sovereign to the Christian faith.

The key figure in the French enterprise in Siam in the 1680s was a Greek, Constant Phaulkon, one of the most extraordinary of all European adventurers in the East. He rose from the humblest beginnings to remarkable wealth, power and honour. If his death was miserable - displayed in chains, tortured and executed in public - his downfall also signalled the collapse of France’s first great venture in the Far East.

Louis XIV sent two missions to Siam, one in 1685 avowedly to convert King Narai to Christianity and the other in 1687 to assume military and political control over the country. Had it not been for the deaths in 1688 of the King and Phaulkon, his Chief Minister, the French enterprise might have been proved a success.

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